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Fargo city judge to require $50 donation to United Way in theft sentences

FARGO -- Fargo shoplifters and petty thieves will have the cost of a good deed tagged on to their sentences.

Fargo Municipal Court Judge Tom Davies on Wednesday announced a twist to sentencing, requiring those who take what's not theirs to give $50 to the United Way to support emergency food service agencies.

The donation will be on top of the typical fine of $225, and $25 in court costs, and is a condition of receiving suspended jail time, which is usually five to 10 days, Davies said.

"The whole idea is it benefits the entire community," Davies said. "There's a deterrent. And the people who do it might feel good afterwards."

He said there are 500 theft or shoplifting cases in his court annually.

There's plenty of room in the city's ordinance for the charitable slap on the hands for the sticky fingered.

For theft and shopliftting, Davies can levy a fine up to $1,000 and put offenders in the hoosegow for 30 days.

This is not the first time the judge has gotten creative with sentencing.

In August, Davies started an ongoing program that gives noncriminal traffic offenders a one-time $20 credit on their fines if they give blood at a local blood bank.

In the latest case, Davies said it would be wrong to give thieves and shoplifters a break by having the donation eat into any part of the normal fine.

"That would, in effect, give them a plus, which is not what I'm looking for," he said.

This spring's record flooding brought the two needs - a ready supply of blood, and food for the poor - back to his attention.

"This is now a continuing situation, and it's been going on a long time," Davies said.

The donations are to be funneled to the Emergency Food Pantry and Great Plains Food Bank in Fargo, and Dorothy Day Flood Pantry and Churches United for the Homeless in Moorhead.

United Way of Cass Clay President Judy Green commended Davies on his support for those who are hungry.

"Once again, Judge Davies is thinking about the community and the way individuals can give back," she said.

Police Chief Keith Ternes applauded Davies' creative sentencing.

"I've always had an appreciation for the way he comes up with different ways, other than the status quo, of dealing with criminal conduct," he said. "I don't think there's anything wrong with that."